Entrepreneur, co-founder, and CEO Carson Holmquist is the business strategist behind freight transportation management firm, Stream Logistics. In 2015, at the age of 29, Carson was honored by the Arizona Republic as one of Arizona’s ’35 Entrepreneurs 35 and Younger’.
In a very competitive industry, Stream Logistics has created a differentiated experience for clients. Carson ensures that all their clients, from small business to large corporations, receive a consistent quality experience. With a boutique-style approach to customer service, Stream Logistics offers its services with a personal touch unmatched by industry competitors.
Carson is an Arizona native who was raised in Kingman. He graduated with a Bachelor’s of Science in Business Management from Arizona State University’s W.P. Carey School of Business, one of the top business schools in the nation ranked by Forbes. Carson is a proud husband and father to his son and enjoys outdoor activities including hiking, fishing, and camping with his family.
In this interview, Carson shares how he started Stream Logistics and what the core values they hold onto for staying ahead of competition. What’s cooler, we have a modern day example that old school customer service still works.
His advice to those starting a business:
My advice to entrepreneurs is simply to start. Many people have aspirations or ideas of owning a business, but much fewer act on these ideas.
After college, I began my career at a fast-growing logistics company, where I was fortunate to learn from some excellent mentors. After 4 years of invaluable experience, I was ready for a new challenge.
Around that time, I met my current business partner, Chad Patton, who perfectly complimented my skillsets, both personally and professionally. With Chad’s incredible ability to build relationships and my operational experience, we believed we could start and run a successful logistics company.
Chad and I shared a passion for exceptional, old-school customer service, based on fast response times, professionalism, and strong client relationships. The industry is notorious for poor visibility and average service levels, so we knew we could be successful if we built our company around world-class customer service.
The most rewarding aspect of being an entrepreneur is creating opportunities, both personally and professionally, for employees. As we grow our business, we create job demand and opportunity. It feels incredible to create jobs and watch employees develop new talents, which enables them to earn a living.
Since many of our employees were hired directly out of college, their employment with Stream Logistics is their first career opportunity. The transformation from new graduate to highly valuable employee is fun to watch.
Not only do we develop their professional skills, but we also believe our principles of organization, appreciation and professionalism translate well into their personal lives.
Unlike many startups, Chad and I did not create a formal business plan. Since we knew what we wanted to create, we preferred to have open discussions about strategy and implementation, which was followed by action.
When we started Stream Logistics, we knew the company would thrive or fail on customer service. We were not large enough to adopt a low cost business model, so our differentiation would have to come from service.
We set out to create a boutique logistics company which catered to manufacturers who valued communication, relationships, and performance above price. Chad and I discussed this model thoroughly during the formation of Stream Logistics. We had to rely on our industry experience to decide what to do, and more importantly, what not to do.
As a boutique logistics company, my biggest fear is losing the personal touch and incredible customer service as we continue to grow. To combat this fear, we emphasize the importance of maintaining and improving our service every day.
Service is our identity. If we lose our identity, we have nothing to offer. Therefore, we continually discuss and implement strategies to build unbreakable bonds with our clients, which derives from unwavering service and performance. We know that if we create a far better experience for our clients at a fair market rate, they will have no reason to seek new partners.
As business owners, Chad and I continually make tough decisions. It seems every week we approach a fork in the road, which requires a critical decision. Topics of discussion include service offerings, hiring schedules, vendor selection, compensation packages, company culture strategies, and much more. The cumulative results of your decisions ends up defining your company, which adds weight to every decision.
One of the most determinative characteristics of an entrepreneur is the ability to quickly and confidently make decisions. Internalizing options and weighing consequences is a true skill which can be improved over time, through experience.
In many instances, no ‘right’ answer exists, so we have to make a decision and learn from the results. Occasionally, we look back and think we should have made a different decision, but value exists in the process. In fact, we typically learn more and benefit greater from analyzing wrong decisions.
While getting ready in the morning, I begin building mental models for how I expect my day to progress. Since the brain thrives on pattern-recognizing, mental models are a great way to set expectations for your mind. Some higher level thoughts include tasks I want to complete and goals I want to accomplish.
However, this model-making process is also very detailed, even down to specific conversations I expect will take place. I think through different iterations of expected conversations with vendors, clients, and employees, always trying to anticipate the direction of the conversation so I can be prepared with supporting dialog to achieve the planned goal.
This process helps me set expectations and patterns for the upcoming day, which helps me be extremely efficient with my time in the office.
One of my greatest passions is self improvement. In order to learn and develop, I generally read or listen to 30-40 books per year. I prefer to read, but life does not offer as much reading time as listening time. During my commute and workouts, I listen to audio books to consume knowledge during time which otherwise could be wasted. These books have become my greatest form of influence during my entrepreneurial journey.
I believe that we only learn through experience, which can be consumed either through our own experiences or others’ experiences. If one does not read, then he is limited to learning from his own experiences. If one reads, they are learning from their own experiences, plus the life experiences of others.
Family is extremely important to me. I have an amazing wife and two young sons, which are my world. In order to allocate plenty of time for family, I have had to learn to be efficient at work and learn to delegate. Organization helps me stay efficient so I can accomplish more in less time at the office.
Additionally, learning to delegate tasks to talented employees allows me to limit my attention to strategic tasks. Hiring the right people whom I can trust is the most critical aspect of learning to delegate. If you trust your employees, delegation will be more comfortable. Letting go of responsibilities is like any gained skill; it gets easier and easier the more you do it.
Over the next 5 years, we plan to continue growing and adding jobs. The most critical aspect of our continued growth is maintaining our customer service level which led to our early success. A natural trend exists among growing companies to accept lower and lower levels of service as it grows. However, we are committed to bucking this trend. Our training programs and company meetings will still focus on customer service and relationships, to ingrain this importance into each employee.
In order to stay efficient as we grow, we have already built a proprietary Transportation Management System, which we use to operate our business and interact with clients. We will continue to invest in technology which automates portions of our operations, while providing increased tracking visibility to our clients.
My advice to entrepreneurs is simply to start. Many people have aspirations or ideas of owning a business, but much fewer act on these ideas. The process of getting started can be overwhelming, but don’t let that stop you. Everything is manageable when attacked one step at a time.
If you try to figure everything out before you get started, you will quickly get discouraged because you likely will not have all the answers before you begin. Start with the easy processes which are laid out online: business formation documents, tax ID documents, business bank accounts, domain setup, website design, etc.
Even if you are not familiar with these basic business setup processes, extensive information and support can be found online. Additionally, the cost for these first few steps is very low. While you are finalizing these early processes, you can simultaneously be finalizing more strategic plans: sales strategies, service/product development, financing (if needed), etc.